Pathways to Action

What do you do after declaring a climate and ecological emergency? What can cultural organisations and practitioners do that will make a difference?

Culture Takes Action: Eight Pathways. Putting cultural action in the centre of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut

Emergency action is called for. In these times, we need to emerge as resilient cultural workers, adapting to external changes and ‘being the change’ ourselves. This is a chance to take a stand on the Earth crisis and its implications for justice.

Co-creating a regenerative culture – one that is inclusive, healthy, life-supporting, and adaptable – requires rebuilding relationships between ourselves, with other species and the land. This takes time. Declaring emergency is just the first step of a journey. You can’t do everything, so here are some pathways you can follow – in solidarity with others and learning as you go.

We welcome your stories of action to link to or to share on social media, with #CultureTakesAction. Please share via this form.

These eight pathways are from the Culture Takes Action framework, developed by Bridget McKenzie of Climate Museum UK. Each pathway section provides you with more ideas and links to cultural practice.

woman reading dressed in a grass coat
Ackroyd & Harvey’s Grass Coats at the launch of CDE. Photo: Kelly Hill.

#1 Tell truths: arts, science & engagement

This pathway starts with declaration, and is about programming or communication that focuses on the science and the stories, providing evidence, inviting diverse voices and using creative approaches to convey and explore truths.

painting of a crushed plastic bottle
Artwork by Gavin Turk

#2 Footprint: decarbonise & limit harm

This pathway focuses on greening your footprint, as a way to model best practice, to transform practices across your sector such as touring or catering, or because your operation is on such a large-scale that you will make a significant contribution by cutting your emissions. An example is the National Theatre whose emergency declaration involved setting ambitious targets to move towards net carbon zero, having already cut its energy, waste and water carbon impacts by a quarter since 2016.

Letters to the Earth gathering
Letters to the Earth gathering, Lyric Hammersmith

#3 Transition: resilient localised economies

This pathway focuses on how you can be an agent for change in your community, helping people and places become healthy, sustainable and resilient. In particular, can you help the community transition from dependence on harmful capitalism?

man addresses a crowd at a public gathering
Sam Lee, Declarers Assemble in Trafalgar Square. Photo: Kelly Hill.

#4 Global action: collaborate for system change

This pathway focuses on working globally, politically or on a large scale, or boldly focusing on leveraging change in a significantly problematic area.

large-scale artwork of a bird
The Kirklees Cuckoo. Photo by Ben Illingsworth –

#5 Care: cultural therapy and social aid

This pathway focuses on helping people attain well-being, perhaps by developing coping strategies for eco-anxiety and the pressures of a changing world. It also includes direct aid for most affected people.

Amazonian women at a public march
Amazonian women during the mobilization for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2020. One of the strongest demands of Amazonian women has to do with the sovereignty of their ancestral lands, which are constantly violated in favor of mining and oil companies, ignoring the rights of nature and the people who inhabit these territories. Photo: Karen Toro / Climate Visuals Countdown,

#6 Decolonise: reparations & representation

This pathway focuses on exposing and dismantling systems of oppression and exploitation, for example, by exploring histories of colonialism, supporting people on the frontlines of climate impacts or tackling inequalities in cultural & environmental movements. There are strong connections between the repair of the natural world and reparations for injustice.

urban farming pavilion
The Growroom by SPACE10, an urban farming pavilion that looks into how cities can feed themselves through food-producing architecture

#7 Design for life: innovation & imagination

This pathway focuses on imagining, inventing, designing, promoting and investing in sustainable products and services, mainstreaming a more Regenerative economy. Some parts of the Cultural sector have contributed to harmful, extractive economic growth, whether in active ways such as designing fast fashion, or encouraging flight-based tourism, or more passive ways such as failing to criticise the status quo or to offer alternatives to it. Now there are many opportunities for cultural practitioners and organisations to steer a shift from harmful growth to healing abundance.

artwork installation
Beuys’ Acorns, Ackroyd & Harvey, 2007-onwards

#8 Protect: preparation & adaptation

This pathway focuses on helping ecosystems, human places and systems to adapt to, or to be resilient to the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. Mitigation, or stopping the harm, is of course a priority, but damaged ecosystems and extreme weather are already widespread and ‘baked in’, making efforts at adaptation essential and urgent. This pathway includes protecting culture and heritage itself from the impacts of global heating and environmental harm. As such, it is just as important for organisations as reducing their footprint.

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